December 5, 2017

Holy Martyr Crispina (+ 304)

St. Crispina (Feast Day - December 5)

Saint Crispina lived at Thacora (Tagora) (now an archaeological site in Tunisia near the town Taoura) in the Roman province of Africa. She belonged to a distinguished family and was a wealthy matron with children. At the time of the persecution she was arrested for professing Christianity. The proconsul Annius Anullinus presided at her trial at Theveste (or Tebessa) in Numidia in December of 304.

Anullinus asked her if she was aware that she was required by law to offer sacrifice to the gods for the welfare of the emperors Diocletian and Maximian. She said that she did not know of this decree, and that her Christian faith would not allow her to offer sacrifice to false gods.

“Turn away from this superstition,” Anullinus said, “and submit to the sacred rites of the Roman gods.”

Saint Crispina replied that she knew no other god but the God worshiped by Christians. The proconsul threatened her with torture, and the Saint said that she would gladly endure this for the sake of Christ.

Anullinus told her to stop being stubborn and to obey the edict. Crispina answered, “I will obey the edict given me by my Lord Jesus Christ.”

The proconsul repeated his threat of torture, saying that she would be forced to obey the edict. He also pointed out that the entire province of Africa had offered sacrifice, but Saint Crispina remained firm in her faith, saying that she would never offer sacrifice to demons.

Enraged that she would not accept the pagan gods, Anullinus said that she would be forced to bow before the idols and to offer incense. The courageous woman retorted that she would never do so as long as she lived.

Then the proconsul sought to persuade her that it would not be a sacrilege to offer sacrifice to the gods as required by law. She said, “May those gods, who have not made heaven and earth, perish.”

Anullinus urged Crispina to respect the Roman religion, but she said, “I have told you again and again that I am ready to endure any tortures rather than worship the idols which are the work of men’s hands.”

Anullinus told her that she spoke blasphemy and was not acting in a way which would ensure her safety. He then tried to humiliate her by ordering her head to be shaved. The holy martyr replied, “If I were not seeking my own well-being, I would not be on trial before you now. Let your gods speak, then I shall believe.” She remained steadfast in the faith of Christ and was not moved even by the tears of her children.

The proconsul told her she could either live a long life, or die in agony before being beheaded. Saint Crispina told him, “I would thank my God if I obtained this. I would gladly lose my head for the Lord’s sake, for I refuse to offer sacrifice to those ridiculous deaf and dumb statues.”

Anullinus lost patience with her and ordered that the minutes of the trial be read back before he pronounced sentence. “Since Crispina persists in her superstition and refuses to offer sacrifice to the gods in accordance with our law, I order her to be executed by the sword.”

Crispina said, “Thanks be to God, Who has deigned to free me from your hands.” She made the sign of the Cross and stretched forth her neck to the executioner. Saint Crispina was beheaded on December 5, 304 in accordance with the fourth edict of Diocletian.

The Acts of her martyrdom, written not long after the event, form a valuable historical document of the period of the persecution. The day of Saint Crispina's death was observed in the time of Augustine of Hippo; in his Sermons 286 and 354 Saint Augustine mentions her name.